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Joseph Beuys

Ein-Stein-Zeit (Ein-Stein-Time), 1984

Multiple | Titanzinc Sheet
28.5 x 40 cm

This plate is from a series of multiples titled Ein-Stein-Zeit (Ein-Stein-Time), an offshoot of one of the great creations that Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) made two years before his death – the monumental installation Das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts or The End of the Twentieth Century, which was first shown at the Haus der Kunst in Munich in 1984 and is currently on show at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.


Das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts consists of 44 irregular elongated basalt blocks, all approximately one and a half metres long. They are laid out on the ground in an apparently random chaotic distribution. However, the viewer soon realises that there is a specific order to their placement, arranged in such a way as to configure something like paths, which are formed by the distances between the blocks.


The impression the work makes is strong, and could even be said to be violent: might these be vestiges of the twentieth century itself, after a great nuclear hecatomb? The interpretations that have been made of the whole are many and various and refer as much to its possible relation to megalithic monuments – and, of course, allude to its magic-symbolic content – as to certain mystical-philosophical premises deriving from the profound veneration in which Beuys held Rudolf Steiner.


It is worth noting that although at first sight the blocks seem monolithic, they are not, because every one of them there is a perfect black circle which frames a special area. Beuys drilled into all the pieces of stone to extract a conical fragment, which he then wrapped it in felt and put back in place. To ensure that they would not move he fixed each one with clay. As we know, these two materials – felt and clay – invoke the vital principle, which contrasts with the cold inert stone, symbol of death. It can be said, therefore, that in Das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts the terminally ill artist engages in a profound reflection on life and death.

Lourdes Cirlot


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